Managing Negative Attitudes in the Workplace

This blog post was written in response to the Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “How do you manage negative attitudes in the workplace?”

Michelle Yao

Michelle Yao

As someone who is a positive person by nature I often find it challenging to deal with negativity and negative people.  This is particularly difficult when I face it in the workplace because it is an environment that I need to be in daily.  So when I am in a negative situation at work I tend to step back and assess what is happening, who is giving off the negative vibes and what their point of view is. I tend not to react right away to negative attitudes, I’ve found that taking a breathe and reminding myself of my own frame of mind lessens the impact of another person’s negative attitude.

Early in my career I worked with an individual who was constantly a “negative nelly.”  She would complain on a regular basis about how much she hated work, her role and her responsibilities.  While initially I didn’t react I found that over time her constant complaining crept into my own frame at work.  The old adage ‘you are who you hang out with’ comes to mind.  Not saying anything, combined with constantly being around this negative attitude was affecting me and my view of my workplace.  Once I realized this I made a decision to speak frankly with this colleague.  I encouraged her to get proactive about why she was feeling how she was feeling.

She was surprised that her attitude was influencing me and dragging me down too. She apologized and we talked through some options.  She ended up speaking to her manager, enlisted the help of human resources to connect with a career counsellor and identified areas in her work that were making her unhappy.  After a few months of seeking support and talking more frankly to her manager, she slowly but steadily became a much more satisfied and happy colleague.

The lessons I’ve gained from this experience are lessons that I’ve brought forward with me in my career.  I’ve learned that if you stand by and just listen to negative attitudes eventually they will start to affect you. We need to be proactive in fostering our own healthy attitude at work.  It takes effort, time and it’s an ongoing process, but it is well worth the reward.

Negativity happens.  It’s a reality, but it is up to us to manage its impact on ourselves and in our workplace.

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